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Thursday, 04 July 2024 19:09

Djokovic grinds out a victory over wild card Jacob Fearnley at Wimbledon.

By Jonathan Jurejko.

British wildcard Jacob Fearnley took a set off seven-time champion Novak Djokovic but fell short of creating a seismic shock in the Wimbledon second round.

Fearnley, a 22-year-old from Scotland, was beaten 6-3 6-4 5-7 7-5 by the Serb second seed in an increasingly-febrile atmosphere on Centre Court.

In May, the world number 277 finished his university studies in the United States.

Six weeks later, he was trying to beat one of the greatest players of all-time on the world's most iconic tennis court.

Making his main-draw debut at the All England Club, Fearnley showcased his talent and caused serious problems for the 24-time Grand Slam champion.

Fearnley was two points away from taking the match into a deciding set before Djokovic survived to come through.

It was an impressive performance from the British number 13, who deservedly received a standing ovation which Djokovic joined in with.

"He played very good tennis and deserves a great round of applause," said Djokovic.

"I hadn't had a chance to see him play until two days ago, there is always an element of surprise and nothing for him to lose.

"He served very well, it was hard to break his serve and he made me work.

"All in all this match potentially deserved to go into a fifth, particularly with the way he played in the fourth. But I'm very glad it didn't."

Fearless Fearnley pushes Djokovic

Facing 37-year-old Djokovic on Centre Court was Fearnley's reward for a marvellous summer on the British grass courts.

Ranked outside the world's top 500 last month, Fearnley won the Nottingham Open for his first title on the ATP Challenger Tour and was given a wildcard for the Wimbledon main draw as a result.

He said he "froze" watching Friday's draw as the realisation dawned he could be pitted against Djokovic.

But Fearnley more than warmed to the task when he saw one of his idols, who he had watched "countless" times on television, on the opposite side of the net.

A competitive start saw Fearnley confidently hold his opening three service games in the first two sets, and create a break point at 2-1 up in the second, before being worn down by Djokovic's relentless returning.

Fearnley lost serve at 2-2 in the third set and Djokovic's passionate celebration was a sign of how much he was being pushed.

However, Fearnley refused to be disheartened.

He broke straight back for 3-3, saved two more break points for a 5-4 lead, then pinched the fourth set with another break to the delight of the jubilant home fans.

Fearnley continued to play calmly and fearlessly and, at 4-5 and 15-30, was two points away from levelling the match.

But Djokovic found his first serve just when it mattered to hang on and, after Fearnley blinked with a double fault on break point at 5-5, moved into the last 32 without needing to go the distance.

Djokovic is still recovering from knee surgery he had last month, but offered few physical excuses as he praised his opponent.

"Again, credit to Jacob. On my side, I should have done some things better when I was a break up in the third," said Djokovic, who will face Australian world number 46 Alexei Popyrin next.

"Can I be playing better and moving better? Absolutely. I hope as the tournament progresses I'll be feeling much better."